The Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue project by composer Peter Boyer and pianist Jeffrey Biegel continues to expand its reach, following a hugely successful premiere with the Utah Symphony, with performance commitments from 52 orchestras in 48 states, nearing the fulfillment of its highly ambitious 50-state goal.
In addition, stretching beyond the United States to achieve an international presence, Boyer and Biegel will record the new Rhapsody with the world-renowned London Symphony Orchestra for the acclaimed Naxos American Classics Series.
Biegel, a prolific and gifted pianist with an extraordinary record of commissioning new works for piano and orchestra, commissioned Boyer to compose a new work in celebration of the centennial of George Gershwin’s iconic Rhapsody in Blue (1924). For the last three years, Biegel has tirelessly pursued a highly ambitious “Rhapsody National Initiative,” with the goal of performing Boyer’s new work with at least one orchestra in each of the 50 United States. As of this writing (9/15/23), with 52 orchestras in 48 states confirmed to perform the work through 2026, only two states (Nevada and Rhode Island) remain to achieve the fulfillment of Biegel’s ambitious vision.
The following orchestras and conductors are participating in the “Rhapsody National Initiative” (as of Sept. 15, 2023):
- Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony (SD), Christopher Stanichar, conductor
- Arapahoe Philharmonic (CO), Devin Patrick Hughes, conductor
- Augusta Symphony Orchestra (GA), Dirk Meyer, conductor
- Brevard Symphony Orchestra (FL), Christopher Confessore, conductor
- Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (NY), Stuart Chafetz, conductor
- Butler Philharmonic (OH), Scott Woodard, conductor
- Central Ohio Symphony (OH), Jaime Morales-Matos, conductor
- Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (MN), Dirk Meyer, conductor
- East Tennessee Symphony Orchestra (TN), Jeremy Francisco, conductor
- Endless Mountain Music Festival (PA), Stephen Gunzenhauser, conductor
- Evanston Symphony Orchestra (IL), Lawrence Eckerling, conductor
- Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra (ND), Christopher Zimmerman, conductor
- Fairfax Symphony Orchestra (VA), Christopher Zimmerman, conductor
- Greater Bridgeport Symphony (CT), conductor TBD
- Gulf Coast Symphony (FL), Andrew Kurtz, conductor
- Idaho State Civic Symphony (ID), Nell Flanders, conductor
- Juneau Symphony (AK), Christopher Koch, conductor
- Kamuela Philharmonic (HI), Brian Dollinger, conductor
- Lake Washington Symphony Orchestra (WA), Michael Miropolsky, conductor
- Las Cruces Symphony (NM), Ming Luke, conductor
- Lubbock Symphony Orchestra (TX), David Cho, conductor
- Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra (DE, MD), Michael Repper, conductor
- Mid-Texas Symphony (TX), Akiko Fujimoto, conductor
- Missoula Symphony Orchestra (MT), Julia Tai, conductor
- The Missouri Symphony (MO), Wilbur Lin, conductor
- Montgomery Symphony Orchestra (AL), Jamie Reeves, conductor
- Muscatine Symphony Orchestra (IA), Brian Dollinger, conductor
- New England Music Camp (ME), Simon Gollo, conductor
- New Hampshire Philharmonic Orchestra (NH), Mark Latham, conductor
- New Jersey Youth Symphony (NJ), Helen Cha-Pyo, conductor
- North Charleston Pops (SC), Nick Palmer, conductor
- North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra (MS), Steven Byess, conductor
- Orchestra Omaha (NE), Kenneth Meints, conductor
- Pacific Symphony (CA), Carl St.Clair, conductor
- Paducah Symphony Orchestra (KY), Raffaele Ponti, conductor
- Peninsula Music Festival (WI), Rune Bergmann, conductor
- Rogue Valley Symphony (OR), Martin Majkut, conductor
- Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra (WA), Juan Felipe Molano, conductor
- Shreveport Symphony (LA), Michael Butterman, conductor
- Signature Symphony (OK), Scott Seaton, conductor
- South Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (AK), Kermit Poling, conductor
- South Bend Symphony Orchestra (IN), Alastair Willis, conductor
- Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra (AZ), Linus Lerner, conductor
- Southwest Symphony (UT), Lucas Darger, conductor
- Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MA), Peter Boyer, conductor
- Traverse Symphony Orchestra (MI), Kevin Rhodes, conductor
- Utah Symphony (UT), Benjamin Manis, conductor
- Vermont Youth Orchestra (VT), Mark Alpízar, conductor
- Western Piedmont Symphony (NC), Matthew Troy, conductor
- West Virginia State Philharmonic Orchestra (WV), Scott Woodard, conductor
- Wichita Symphony Orchestra (KS), Daniel Hege, conductor
- Wyoming Symphony Orchestra (WY), Christopher Dragon, conductor
Boyer’s 18-minute Rhapsody was premiered on June 30, 2023, with Biegel and the Utah Symphony conducted by Benjamin Manis, on the opening night of the Deer Valley Music Festival in Park City, Utah. An outdoor audience of more than 3,000 rewarded the new work with a prolonged standing ovation — a reaction which has been repeated by audiences at each subsequent performance thus far.
An impressive array of notable artists from the classical and pop music fields have endorsed the “Rhapsody National Initiative,” including David Foster, Neil Sedaka, Emanuel Ax, Leonard Slatkin, JoAnn Falletta, Melissa Manchester, and Charles Strouse. An especially meaningful endorsement came from Marc Gershwin, nephew of George Gershwin, bringing the imprimatur of the Gershwin family to the project. With prominent orchestra executives included also, the project has received more than 25 endorsements.
“I can’t wait to witness this incredible collaboration celebrating 100 years of one of the world’s most treasured compositions, Rhapsody in Blue, with my dear friend Jeffrey Biegel at the piano. No one brings the essence of Gershwin and his genius more to our ear than J-man — as I like to call him. He, like Gershwin’s music, is world class! What a fantastic idea to commission the uber-talented Peter Boyer to help celebrate this milestone with his composition, Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue. […] Congrats to all involved — I will be cheering from the sidelines!!!”
— David Foster, 16-time Grammy-winning composer, pianist, songwriter, producer
The Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue will be recorded with Biegel as soloist, and Boyer conducting the London Symphony Orchestra at the famed AIR Studios, Lyndhurst Hall on November 27, 2023. Simon Rhodes, Senior Engineer at Abbey Road Studios, known for his work on projects such as the first two Harry Potter film scores, the Avatar film scores, and hundreds of classical albums and other film scores, will produce and engineer the recording. Naxos will release the Rhapsody recording in February 2024, coinciding with the centennial of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue (which premiered on February 12, 1924). Both Boyer and Biegel are Naxos artists. This will be Boyer’s fourth recording for the American Classics Series, and his third recording with the LSO as composer and conductor.
The commission of Boyer’s Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue was made possible through a generous consortium of sponsors. The Billy Rose Foundation was the lead sponsor of the commission, and is the exclusive sponsor of the recording.
A perusal score and complete demo recording of Boyer’s Rhapsody may be found here.
A video of excerpts from the Utah Symphony premiere may be found here.
“Peter Boyer’s Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue is a vibrant new work reflecting the American landscape, the pulse, energy and beauty of our shared identity as Americans. The Rhapsody is fun to play, fulfilling for a pianist with exciting rhythmic vitality and soaring, beautiful, songful melodies. I am proud to have created the Rhapsody National Initiative, and excited to bring this to present day audiences.” — Jeffrey Biegel